Archive for December, 2016

Heathrow and the ‘just about managing’ places

This article appears in the Winter 2016 edition of the Fabian Society’s magazine, Fabian Review.

Everyone wants to rebalance the UK economy, to generate jobs and growth in the parts of the country that need them most. Or at least they are keen in theory and when they are making speeches about it. But in reality, public money is poured into the wealthiest, most vibrant parts of the country regardless of the cost to places that are (to coin a phrase) ‘just about managing’.

And even when efforts are made to support parts of the country that are struggling, they are undermined because even more is done to stoke growth in places that already doing well. The thinking seems to be that firms want to invest in booming areas; people want to live there (of course they do – that is where the jobs are); and that it is the job of government to anticipate and accommodate this growth.

So predict and provide rules the day, whether in transport (build more roads to meet demand), housing (build homes ‘where people want to live’) or economic development (create more jobs where there are already jobs).

All this, we are told, helps ‘UK plc’. But UK plc does not exist; it is a slogan, a category mistake. In reality, as has been endlessly discussed since Brexit, a growing economy does not necessarily benefit all parts of the country, and the places left behind may actively resent those that are doing well. Continue reading ‘Heathrow and the ‘just about managing’ places’

1300 lost villages

Here is my latest Countryman column.

It is sometimes hard to separate our love of all things countryside from our propensity for nostalgia.

Perhaps this is because while most of us now live in towns and cities, we came from the countryside, however many generations back. Or perhaps it is because it is pleasanter to think of the milk maids of Hardy’s Wessex or a picturesque old windmill than a modern milking shed or wind turbine.

But another reason may be our sense that countryside is disappearing quite rapidly. Continue reading ‘1300 lost villages’